--AJ Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be racing their “PRS-642” Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge Charger this weekend at Talladega. The team debuted this car during Daytona Speed Weeks back in February. Dinger started 10th and finished eighth driving this chassis in the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race. He started 15th in the Daytona 500 and finished 34th after a run-in on pit road relegated the team to the garage area to replace the radiator. “Just like all the cars we run in the plate races, this car has gone back and been completely redone in the fab shop and has had significant wind tunnel time before this weekend.” The team will have their “PRS-626” Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge Charger on hand as their backup car. “This is a car that was part of the No. 2 team’s fleet last season,” Gordon said. “Brad and the Miller Lite Team had it on their transporter as a backup, but they never raced it.”
--Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger says he welcomes back the huge pack racing that will most certainly be the case in this weekend’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, the second restrictor-plate race of the season: “To me, to get back in the big packs is getting back to that will be a lot better than over the last couple of years,” Allmendinger said. “Hopefully, it continues the same way it was at Daytona. Daytona, to me, was great racing throughout the whole race. I wouldn’t say that I’m ever excited to go to Talladega, but I look forward to getting back to how big pack racing used to be there."
--Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver can’t help but remember the wild finish of the October 2010 race on the massive 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. "I look forward to hanging out in the infield at Talladega,” Allmendinger said when asked how much he is looking forward to this weekend’s return to the track. “You know, when you flip down the front straightaway it kind of takes the excitement level away.” To view what Dinger is talking about, please follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT6psfETYMw
--Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is hoping for the continuation of the “flip-flop situation” his team has experienced this season this weekend at Talladega: “Talladega is another one of the tracks that AJ doesn’t think is one of his strong points,” said Gordon. “There have been several races already this season where he’s said that and we have seen him get there and have a very competitive weekend. Really, it’s been a case that every place we’ve been so far this season that he doesn’t particularly care for, we’ve done really well at. Call it the ‘flip-flop’ or whatever, but we’re certainly looking for that to be the situation again for our team again at Talladega.”
--Perhaps nobody has said it better as for the prospects of winning a race at Talladega Superspeedway than did Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon earlier this week: “It’s the same as it has always been in the Talladega races,” Gordon added. “At the end, if you have air in the four tires and water in the motor, you’ve got a shot at winning the race. We’re hoping that’s the case for AJ and our team there on Sunday.”
--RICHMOND LEFTOVERS: “It certainly wasn’t what we wanted or what we deserved, but it’s what we came out of there with,” crew chief Todd Gordon said of the 16th-place finish in last Saturday night’s Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway. “We had a strong Dodge Charger. We qualified fourth and ran in the top-seven for 90 percent of the race. We were just one caution away from a top-five finish or a legitimate shot at winning. We just had too much camber and burned the tires off. We were super fast for 30 to 40 laps and with only five cautions the entire race, it just didn’t go our way. If we’d had another yellow somewhere between Lap 350 to 370, it would have allowed us to get fresh tires and go after the win. Instead, we were forced to take the wave-around twice to stay in the lead lap. It really hurt because those 10 spots we lost at the end would have us up to 17th in the standings now. We came out of there knowing that we can compete up front and we learned a lot for when we go back to Richmond in September. We still climbed two spots in the points, so we’re headed in the right direction.”
--Shell-Pennzoil/AAA driver AJ Allmendinger on what makes a good restrictor-plate driver: "You know, when it came to the tandem racing, a lot of it was just luck. I mean, just getting hooked up and kind of getting that right hole at the right time and being pushed at the right time. But I think when it comes to big pack racing, the first thing is having a fast race car. It’s not just because Dale Jr. and guys like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, they’re great plate racers and everybody just wants to beat ‘em. They also have fast race cars, so it makes everybody want to kind of hook up with ‘em. But you know, I think it’s just timing, knowing when to go. A lot of it is still luck, getting in that right time at the right place and not getting caught up in that big wreck, knowing when to go, knowing the right position to put yourself in. It’s a combo between having a fast race car and being smart. You see those types of guys that are up front when it comes time to get going at the end."
--In seven career starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger is still looking to make his mark in the win, top-five and top-10 columns. He has an average start of 23.7 and an average finish of 27.3. The amazing thing is that Allmendinger has an impressive 97.2 lap completion average in spite of two DNFs. Dinger was involved in last-lap accidents in the April 2008 and October 2010 races that saw him officially not running at the finish.
--Entering this weekend’s Aaron’s 499, Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger’s best career Talladega finish is the 11th he recorded in last year’s edition of the Aaron’s 499. His best career Talladega start was fourth in the 2008 edition of the spring race.
--In case you missed it, last Friday Shell-Pennzoil announced that they will serve as the primary partner for AJ Allmendinger’s karting scholarship. Kyle Kirkwood, the 13-year-old 2012 scholarship recipient, was on hand in Richmond for the announcement. Dinger discussed the scholarship:
"I started this scholarship program this year. I’ve watched him over the last year or so and he’s got a lot of speed. Ultimately, it’s exciting to start this program and have Shell come on board, to me, is a huge deal. It shows their support of me, to want to be a part of this program, but more importantly to show that they want to try to build a scholarship program and be a part of helping get young drivers into this sport, which I think we need more help with. To have this karting scholarship, to have Shell wanting to step on board, is a big deal. Kyle ran a few weeks ago with us and has a first, a second and a sixth. Ultimately, I think it’s really cool to have Shell be a part of this. It’s just exciting to be able to give back to karting the best that I can, but to have a huge company like Shell wanting to be a part of it and already step up, it’s pretty amazing. I’m excited about it. You can tell that Kyle is really thrilled and it’s really cool, so I look forward to it.
"I think for everybody that doesn’t know my background to the full extent, I had Paul Tracy have a karting team and when I was 16, 17 years old trying to figure out what I was going to do, Paul Tracy had his karting team and really stepped up and at that point it was amazing to me to have such a superstar in the kart world series wanting me to be a part of his race team. That was something that I took to heart and knew that it was something that, once I got to the right time in my life, I wanted to kind of do the same thing. And, you know, I think karting doesn’t really get the recognition that it deserves here in the U.S. Across the world, it’s such a big deal but in the U.S., to me, it doesn’t get the recognition because it’s where all the young guys start. I think in NASCAR racing, they look at late model racing and that’s where kids start, bandeleros, things like that, but for me it was always karting. To me it’s the most pure form of racing there is, whether you’re six, seven years old or on up through the ranks or somebody like me that’s still trying to relive my old glory and still race go karts. That’s something that was always important to me. That’s why I wanted to start the karting scholarship. I wanted to do this the last couple of years and I felt like this was the right time."
--Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led No. 22 Penske team were on had for last week’s tire testing at Pocono Raceway. Dinger weighs in on how things went: "I mean, it’s definitely a lot faster. They did a good job there. It’s fairly smooth. There are still some little rumbles in the racetrack. You could see even on the second day of the test it was starting to get some character already built into it, but a decent amount of grip already. We were running lap times that were heck, by the end, three to four seconds faster than a race pace there. But it’s not like scary fast. You’re not like holding your breath getting down into the corners. The biggest thing is it’s smoother. The bumps in one and two are gone for the most part. I think what it’s going to come down to is if the groove widens out. You know when you’re there with five or six cars; the fastest way around the racetrack is right around the bottom. So you get one groove built up. That groove had a good amount of grip in it. I think it’s just about trying to work in our line. Nobody is really going to work that line in until probably the truck race because I don’t see why any driver is going to want to try to work that line in practice by himself. It’s well done. I was the first car on the racetrack, so I was scared it was going to be like ice. We were going to be doing 200 down the straightway and going into (Turn) one, it was going to be like ice like it was at Phoenix. You know, it had a decent amount of grip to start with. They did a good job on it and I’m looking forward to racing there. I think it was probably because I was really bad there the last couple of years (laughs), so something new will be good."
--AJ Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team also have road course testing at Road Atlanta (May 15) and Virginia International Raceway (May 29) on tap. Test days are on the calendar for Michigan (June 14), as well as testing at the Milwaukee Mile (June 26).
Credit - Penske Racing PR